We need a paradigm shift on transformation
In his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey uses a well-known example from psychology to illustrate “paradigm shift”. In the experiment, a Harvard Business School instructor divided his students into two groups and gave each one, for 10 seconds, a card with a woman’s face. One looked young and the other old.
After collecting the cards, he projected a picture that combined both images and invited comment on what they saw on the screen. Without fail, each saw the image that was on the cards they were given, notwithstanding the fact that the image in front of them was now a combined one. The point that Covey illustrates is “if conditioning or priming can have such an effect on us in 10 seconds, what about a lifetime?” In his words, “We see the world not as it is, but as we are. That is, as we are conditioned to see it.”
I posted on Facebook my alarm at the ignorance and self-righteousness in the socialmedia commentary that followed Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula’s announcement about the punitive measures that he was imposing on four national sports federations.
In the main, the negative commentary was composed of sweeping statements and the humdrum chorus was clearly: “What a stupid thing to do. There you go again interfering where you should not be. This is gonna destroy South African sport.”
Maybe I should not have been alarmed, because each of us sees things not as they are but from our own paradigm (the world as we are conditioned to see it).
Regardless of what one thinks of Mbalula, at the very least one ought to take note that he arrived at his decision having considered the results of the third scientific report by the Eminent Persons Group on transformation, in which the very same national sports federations partook. The report states, among other things, that the Eminent Persons Group intervention has assisted in the following manner:
Providing more scientific and systematic data on sports transformation and tracking trends of improvement or regression;
Providing empirical evidence that assists codes and their sports authorities to develop their transformation plans, which become the basis for concrete verifiable commitment to the national department of sport; and
Regularly providing evidence-based sports transformation advice to the department.
This tracking of performance on transformation is based on agreements signed between the sporting codes and the department of sport and recreation, in which the federations set themselves transformation targets. What this means is that the targets they failed to meet, as reported in the transformation status, were their own, not Mbalula’s. Which is why the national sports federations have accepted the report and its consequences, since they know how these came about.
In over 20 years of involvement in sports development and transformation, I have learnt that “you are damned if you do and damned if you don’t”.
It should be noted that inclusivity and diversity are socioeconomic as well as moral imperatives. In a country where the majority is still not part of the main socioeconomic activity, all manner and effort must be put towards redressing that as a matter of urgency. One must have enforceable and effective mechanisms, including punitive ones.
Punitive measures would be unnecessary if the naysayers gathered their thoughts and realised that the world that they are looking at is only from their own paradigm, while there is out there another valid, morally correct and socioeconomically necessary view of the world.
For us to release the effective change necessary in the South African sports landscape, and indeed the socioeconomic landscape in our country, we need to realise that it requires a paradigm shift. Otherwise, we are merely going to stand up where we were seated in other words, hardly moving. Ngwenya is group CEO of Octagon and writes in his personal capacity